Publisher : Manifold Press
Publication date: 1 August 2014
Buy Link: http://www.manifoldpress.co.uk/2014/07/hunted/
As a professional footballer it looks like Adam Hunter has it all, but when the secret of his affair with midfielder Louie Jackson begins to leak out he’s plunged into the depths of misery – prompting a desperate series of manoeuvres to conceal the truth. Injured, distrusted by his team-mates and plagued by personal tragedy, Adam goes from hero to zero – and by the time Louie’s transferred to a German side he’s running out of reasons to stay alive. If there’s any way back from the brink of suicide, it isn’t clear to him at the moment …
It's my first game without him, FA Cup against Leeds at Elland Road. I've
got a new roommate, a wet-behind-the-ears lad from the academy called David
Pierce – he's a bit of a clunky left-midfielder but he'll do to fill the
space on the bench. I don't think I've ever even seen him before. I wanted
Brian back but we haven't roomed together for years: it was always me and
Louie, Brian and James.
Al puts his hand on my shoulder as we leave the team bus, heading for the
"Don't panic, Adam," he tells me, and I wonder when I've become the
David Pierce doesn't talk to me. He sits on his bed and plays endless games
on his tablet. I open my book, try and concentrate, but find I can't. I'm
thinking about tomorrow, about sitting in the dressing room next to an
empty spot, about slipping back onto the wing now he's gone. Shame. I'd
even started to enjoy being a central midfielder, after all.
*You know why this is happening. *
The voice comes from a dark space in my mind, behind the fog, where all the
bad things are stored. It's my own secret compartment, where I hide things
I can't face myself: bad things go straight to the back. Closed with a
lock. In the closet, as it were.
*Very funny, Hunter.*
I'm staring hard at the page, trying to make sense of a sentence. A jumble
of them keep running through my head and I can't seem to move past it, like
a roadblock. *Do not pass Go. *The book is the Handmaid's Tale, by Margaret
Atwood. An old favourite of mine. The passage is stuck –
*He was so momentary, so condensed. And yet there seemed no end to him. We
would lie in those afternoon beds, afterwards, hands on each other, talking
it over. Possible, impossible. What could be done? We thought we had such
problems. How were we to know we were happy?*
David Pierce still doesn't look at me. In his shadow I see *him, *I see
Louie – slumped against the wall, headphones on, face basked in the glow of
whatever film or TV serial he was watching. Absently scratching his ankles,
his knees – I'd slap his hands away, pinch him. *Stop it. Stop what? Stop
scratching. I can't help it. Yes you can. No I can't –*
I can see it so clearly I'm almost afraid to breathe, in case the flimsy
half-remembered fantasy blows away, like a gauzy veil.
I close the book and sit back against the headboard of the bed.
"Want one?" David Pierce asks me after what feels like an age, holding out
his gum to me. I shake my head. He's got one of those faces that only a
mother could love; fucking butt ugly, actually, and he's got that dim,
unfocussed look about him that a lot of us – footballers – have when we're
not dashing after a ball on the pitch.
"Suit yourself," says David Pierce, but he doesn't go straight back to his
tablet. He looks at the gum, then looks at me.
"You're not going to try anything, are you?"
The accusation hits me, dully, like a butter knife. The worst bit is I'm
not even thrown – this happens all the time, ever since what went on over
"Don't know what you mean," I say vaguely, carefully keeping eye contact. I
hope this lad is young enough not to entirely trust club rumour. It's a bit
more than just *rumour *these days, of course, but we all know the value of
discretion in the world of football. I know some things about my teammates
I wish I didn't, believe me, but somehow what I did is worse. A good
portion of them treat me like I'm infected, and they can catch it somehow.
So fucking suspicious.
David Pierce takes another long look at me, before returning to his tablet.
I wonder what would happen if I tried to ring Louie tonight. I tried a day
or two ago, and it rang through to voicemail. I listened all the way to the
tone and kept silent before hanging up; the next time I tried I was rudely
cut off, and I realised he must have hung up on me. The realisation that
this is really it is hard for me to stomach, and I don't think I really am
coping with it, not really, not at all. The pills are hidden at the bottom
of my bag and even though I've promised seemingly everybody from Mum to
Sophia to Louie and back that I won't take any, it seems like the easy way
out. What if my knee goes on me before tomorrow? I'm not sitting out
another game for it. Not now. Not without him.
David Pierce is still ignoring me. I wonder idly if he has a girlfriend,
and if she really loves him, or his money.
*This kind of thing is going to happen more and more, you know, *my
subconscious reminds me. *When it goes from rumour to spoken truth. You
know it. Even when he's gone. They'll all still remember.*
Footballers are elephants. One-trick ponies who don't forget.
At least however else my career goes, I'll never be forgotten. Oh yes.
They'll remember Adam Hunter for years to come, for better, for worse. I'm
the trembling ace that's going to bring down the house of cards, and aren't
they all so scared of me for it.
About Liz Powell: Born and brought up in Kent, I have a masters degree in Geophysics and a near obsession with writing, which at least gives me something to talk about in job interviews! I’ve written stories ever since I can remember, from scribbling in spare accounting books as a child to staying up until the early hours writing to the glow of a laptop screen as a student. I’m fascinated by claustrophobic, character-driven stories of flawed individuals – though of course it’s a must that love conquers (almost) all in the end.
This journal is friends only. This entry was originally posted at http://reviews-and-ramblings.dreamwidth.org/4405156.html. If you are not friends on this journal, Please comment there using OpenID.